I have seen a large number of participants bringing their dogs to Hellodog Fest 2019, many of whom visited Nursery Park of West Kowloon Cultural District for the very first time. Besides the fact that it’s all fun and exciting for dogs to be exposed to new environment and activities, this is also what’s called as “dog enrichment”, a valuable component of positive reinforcement training for dogs!
What is “dog enrichment”? Simply put, it is to add fun elements of value and meaning, and of their own interests, in dogs’ daily lives. For example, it can be a new place for dogs to experience scenery, scents, sounds and textures (such as lawn, sand beaches, hiking trails) which they haven’t before. Or it can be a meet-and-greet between new dogs, new people and surrounding. You might be well aware that physical exercise is crucial for dogs’ health, in fact, mental stimulation is as important. Dogs’ brains taking in and analysing new information through exploration of all senses is one of the best ways for mental stimulation.
According to a study* conducted by Dr Charlotte Burn, a senior lecturer at The Royal Veterinary College who specialises in animal behaviour and welfare, if dogs are always in “chronic boredom” state, they may suffer from cerebral atrophy and their cognitive ability may diminish. This tells mental stimulation does play an important role in the health of your beloved dogs.
While it’s almost impossible to take your dog out for totally new experiences every day, nor we need to, we can take a practical approach to keep your dog mentally stimulated. We all can start with, for example, making use of mental toys with food reward, scheduling play dates with other dog friends, teaching your dog new commands, playing two or three sessions of 5-minute training games a day, changing regular walking routes occasionally. Let’s not bore your dog to death, literally!
(We shall observe any signs of fear in your dog when you take him or her out to a new environment. If your dog is shy and easily nervous in nature, you should cater activities for their temperaments.)
An essay by Dr Charlotte C Burn
Bestial boredom: a biological perspective on animal boredom and suggestions for its scientific investigation
Article written by Alice Lau, Certified Dog Trainer, CTC, CPDT-KA® , HKDR Positive Partners Training Course Instructor. Translated to English by Hellodog Team.